John 11:1-6

“1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

One can almost hear the headlines: “Savior Leaves Friend to Die,” “Lazarus – Delayed to Death,” “Jesus Ignores Friend in Grave Condition,” “Lazarus of Bethany Botch Job.”

In the middle of the coronavirus chaos and hysteria, the press-driven panic-circus, it seems that people are wondering if perhaps all this all might signal the “end times.” Scripture talks about all manner of signs in nature which will herald the end of the world as we know it, and “plagues” is one of those “signs.” As these signs come and go, generation after generation is often tempted to think that “our time” may or perhaps must be the “end time.” If one reviews history, however, those convinced that their time was the end, ended up being wrong. St. Paul was convinced that Christ’s return was immanent. Luther too believed that humanity and society could not get much worse. Without fail, however, humanity succeeds time and again in its ability to go from bad to worse. Perhaps we think that ours is the “end time” because we cannot contemplate time without us.

After weeks of derogatory headlines and news reports about politicians’ various failings dealing with the coronavirus, this week the Washington politicians managed to pass a “stimulus package” worth $2 trillion ($2,000,000,000,000.00), and the media was quick to speculate how much YOU might be eligible to receive. If one translates the real value of the forthcoming checks into something really valuable, like rolls of toilet paper, then we have hit the jackpot, or was that crackpot. In the middle of a global crisis, the media wants us to focus on ourselves. Actually, the media wants us to focus on the media and their sponsors, which may be why they want to tell us how much money we are going to get.

Jesus should have been focusing on his friend, Lazarus, who was very ill. Jesus apparently misread the situation, did not listen to the voices “in the know,” and stuck with his own agenda. His dilly-dally response could endanger a life, and it did. Lazarus died, and Jesus thinks that this will be a great evangelism opportunity. How much worse could he get?

How many times has each one of us prayed to God for help in a moment of concern or crisis or panic or heartache or heartbreak, or greed or self-interest or personal gain or … When we are praying for help, how often do we qualify our prayers with “Thy will be done”? When our prayers are not answered the way in which we want them answered, how often do we react adversely, thinking perhaps that God does not care or that there is no God or …?

Well, this is all well and good for Lazarus. He got raised from the dead. That does not really help us much, does it? What about my situation, we ask? What about my friend, relative, illness, financial situation, sports team, and lottery ticket numbers? We sinners do not want just a miracle. We want continual miracles, to be saved from our lives of sin, to live forever, which in reality is what God has actually done for us in Christ.

When Jesus raised Lazarus, Lazarus died again. In contrast, when God the Father raised God the Son from the grave, none of those who believe in Jesus Christ will ever die again. God does not delay or dilly dally. God has already acted. God has delivered on his word centuries before our time of greatest need. God accomplished our salvation in Jesus Chris before we were born. God has given most of us the promise and gift of eternal life in Christ in baptism long before we knew that we had been baptized. Why does that not make the headlines? Through his word of promise in Christ, however, God has made you a headline speaking his life giving love and faith. Share the word. Live the headline. Amen.